|Adventure In Havasu
By Elizabeth Griffith
Arizona Highways July 1963
|Adventure is close at hand if you know where to
look. Sixty-three miles of dirt road off Highway 66 and ten miles of trail
lead you into the heart of the memorable and varied offerings of Havasu, a
side canyon of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.
Havasu defines adventure in many ways. Bird watchers are well rewarded there; the bird community is one of the finest for such a small area. Some people most enjoy a leisurely comparison of lush vegetation on the canyon floor with the flowering prickly pear, barrel, and hedgehog cacti on the rim immediately above. An examination of the aquatic vegetation may be combined with bathing in the bracing waters of Havasu Creek as found below a thundering fall or in a quiet pool lined with water cress. For many, a high point is a growing familiarity with the customs of the Havasupai Indians who make Havasu their home. But if "adventure" to you means challenge, the challenge open only to the few, you will elect to wind your way down Havasu to the mighty Colorado, unmindful of the cold, the wet, the thorns, the brush, the rocks, smooth and rough, and the walls, tough and easy.
Unlike the white men who go there, adventure is not a mere visitor to the canyon. Rather, it has dwelt there with the Indians for hundreds of years, and long ago it was partner to the discovery of Havasu.
Around 600 A.D., the experts believe, some Indians from the lower Colorado River moved eastward. In time they reached the plateau country of northern Arizona where they could earn their living as before --- by being seed-gatherers, hunters, and part-time farmers. And it is likely that once, while hunting, a brave followed the trail of an animal such as a mountain sheep from the edge of the sage and grass-covered plateau into the intricacies of some of the side canyons of the Colorado. In and around, down and down, they led him until he came upon beautiful, blue-green Havasu Creek, flowing through a wide place in the canyon floor.
When he returned to his tribe, the most valuable thing he carried was his impression of Havasu's charm. And of this he constantly spoke with enthusiasm around the fire circle in the evening.
Gradually skepticism of the others gave way to curiosity until a party followed him to see for themselves. These too returned to add their praises of Havasu.
Many more trips must have been made before some said, "Let us make our home in this canyon where the life-giving water flows."
Then, some time around 950 A.D., a part of the tribe left permanently. Father Garces, a Spanish mission priest and the first man to write of the Havasupai, found in 1776 a tribe of well-established farmers, making some use of irrigation.
The great food triad was maize, beans, and squash with various fruits added later, possibly by way of the Spanish. But hunting and seed gathering were not for, gotten in fall and winter.
The part-season farming and part-season hunting have been carried into this century, though in modified form. Such a pattern has made possible a comparatively easy life. Moreover, the life is a good one.
If there are poets among them to sing of the beau, ties of Havasu, their songs have never been transcribed. The idyllic aspect of their life here has long been reflected by their name: they are called "The People of the BlueGreen Water."
These are people who enjoy the simple pleasures; laughter comes easily to their lips and cares are almost as ephemeral as shadows from the Arizona clouds.
The Indian's feeling for his canyon home is apparently as deep as his bones and as lasting as time. No siren songs of the outside world have cast a spell as strong as the music of Havasu Creek and the booming cadences of its falls. In due time these voices call to the wandering Indian, and he comes riding down the trail again, coming back home, just coming back home.
If you are visiting Havasu for the first time, your impressions at the Hilltop give little indication of what is to come. Standing at the edge of the cliff, you see in the morning light the wall of Hualapai Canyon a half mile away. How striking are its varied colors; how overwhelming, its massive formations of stone. From be, low, some specks move into view. These are the guides, and horses coming to take your party into Havasu.
As you wait for the Indians, the layers of rock below you remind you of ages of geological time. No area on earth is as rich as the Grand Canyon Country in such lore. The places where the Colorado wears and grinds predate the first stirrings of life itself. The measure of this is not in hundreds of years, nor thousands, nor millions, but rather in hundreds of millions of years. Geologists say that twelve hundred million years have left their mark of passing, between the rim where you stand and where the Colorado roars, a distance of only 17 canyon miles and a drop of about five thousand feet.
Between the rim and the Colorado each major formation - Coconino Limestone, Supai Sandstone, Red, Wall Limestone, Muav Limestone - not only frames a picture but is a portal of time. Pass through and you get ever deeper into knowledge and inner mystery. Here the sympathetic and eager learner will walk with soft step and open eye. But such thoughts are interrupted, for the guides and animals have arrived and soon you are on your way to adventure in Havasu.
The trail descends by a series of switchbacks which result in an easy grade. And it is broad and safe though rather rocky. Soon you are out on the gentle half-mile slope which provides easy access to the canyon floor.
Suddenly one of the guides turns, points, and shouts. There silhouetted against the buff-colored Coconino Sandstone wall is the dark form of a golden eagle, skimming along in horizontal flight on outstretched wings. Occasionally the thermal air nudges him gently from below. These slight, almost imperceptible undulations serve to scan several millions of years in the history of the cliff.
The eagle folds its wings and dives almost 400 feet to the base of the cliff. By this maneuver he captures his rodent breakfast and scans several million years of Coconino Sandstone formation. This sudden association of times is almost enough to crack your imagination.
The trail soon reaches the floor of Hualapai Canyon just where the Supai Sandstone formation begins. This formation has long been in view as a kind of red rock plateau within the broad portals of Coconino Sand, stone. Here then, is the beginning of a new canyon, narrow between its walls with ever-higher sides as the floor descends.
This five miles of canyon floor is a dry streambed where water flows only when there is local precipitation. The first part of the floor is covered by a mixture of sage and yucca in the ordered spacing common to desert vegetation. This makes a pleasing pattern and gives an interesting texture to the scene. And, if your ears are in tune, you may hear the singing of the desert sparrow or house finch.
As you ride along, the friendly Indians point out hidden scenes and talk about life in their village of Supai. Now and again they fall silent though they occasionally sing some Havasupai songs in a musing kind of way. The songs are, for the most part, those they sing in the sweat bath or at a dance.
As the trail drops down, shrubby growth including scrub oak soon begins to be common. Here the Arizona jay may take note of your passing, and the rock wren is seen or heard among the walls and boulders.
The red walls of the canyon have become progressively higher so that you now see only wall and a strip of blue sky above except where breaks occur as a consequence of eroded water courses coming from the side.
And here among these higher walls you may make your first acquaintance with the canyon wren. If, in a moment of silence, you hear his cascade of pure liquid notes, you will have a simple adventure that will remain long in your memory.
The lower you go, the more profuse the vegetation becomes. What a show it is in early spring suddenly to come upon several redbud trees heavy with blossoms!
And it is a surprise, too, to come upon a lone cotton, wood tree in verdant leaf. You wonder how such growth can be in this dry canyon. The reason is that you have dropped lower and lower, the water table has come nearer to the surface. Further evidence of this is a spring or two whose flow may last for a short distance above ground.
By now the red-brown sandstone walls are towering hundreds of feet above the trail, and the quickened pace of the animals suggests a feeling of climax. The canyon opens out somewhat, and as you round a corner, you see a line of trees about one quarter mile away. Getting closer, you hear the sound of running water music to all ears, human and horse, and soon the animals have grateful muzzles thrust into the refreshing stream.
This is now Havasu Canyon with its wonderful stream of blue-green water. The long dry trek is over. The animals are tied and it is your turn to drink under the shade of the cottonwood trees.
You now notice numerous signs of other activity horses and mules moving about, dogs barking in the distance, some Indians riding along for this is the edge of the arable land.
In another mile the trail tops a rise and there before you in a wide place in the canyon floor lies Supai the fields, gardens, and homes of the Havasupai Indians.
If you are visiting the canyon with the specific purpose of covering the nine remaining miles to the Colorado, you must cope with a tantalizing problem. You must decide how to keep on schedule and travel through this cheerful and active reservation, looking neither to right nor left.
If you have made a particularly good impression on your Indian guides, one or more of the younger fellows may offer to show you around Supai. You are indeed persistent if you can hold to your original plan and pass by all this color and movement now so enticingly spread before you.
You sense that here is an opportunity for the wise traveler, not a trap for the unwary. So .you find your quarters and decide to stay two or three days longer than you had planned. In a few days you can make your trip to the inner gorge and be all the richer for the delay.
Of course, you can't learn everything about life in Supai in a few days. But a number of things will come to your notice as items of unusual interest because they exhibit the mixture of old customs with modern life.
First almost everyone looks around for the chief. To your surprise you discover him wearing a deputy sheriff's badge on his shirt and a revolver on his hip. He is the policeman for the tribe and the area and, as such, is on the federal payroll along with the venerable Indian judge.
Both of these men function as a consequence of the Hualapai (a neighboring tribe) Law and Order Code adopted in 1957. This code, representing a mixture of old and new customs, covers the conduct of members of the tribe as well as visitors.
Traditionally there are three chiefs --- ahead chief who is hereditary and two elected sub-chiefs. In the old days, a head chief of strong personality could dominate the tribe. Today the influence of the chiefs is primarily through their membership on the tribal council or through some newer office.
The Havasupais have the tribal council method of administration, a method recently adopted by many other tribes. Along with the three chiefs are four members elected yearly. The chairman of the council is the most influential administrative officer and most business requests are addressed to him.
The council selects and employs a store manager, a tourist manager, and other representatives as needed to carry on the daily business of the tribe. Other tribal members may and do attend the council meetings and make their views known. But most business requiring tribal approval is taken care of at an annual meeting of the tribe. All men and women who are of age may vote at this meeting. Women take an active part, and one of them has long been a member of the council.
The store manager and the tourist manager, both full-time jobs, are among the newest activities of the tribe. Twenty-five years ago there was little need of either.
But the Havasupai have had an increasing amount of association with the outside world ever since the establishment of the reservation by executive order of President Chester A. Arthur on March 31, 1882. They have learned to like a number of products of white man's culture, particularly those which come in cans. When likes become needs, a store was necessary. At first a few shelves in one corner of the small building were sufficient to store the small stock. Now when a new order has been packed down from the Hilltop, an operation which usually takes several strings of pack animals several days to complete, the place is loaded with groceries and even some fresh produce.
Ten years ago a quick glance would give an adequate survey of the stock. The staples were represented --- sugar, coffee, bacon, beans, flour, a few canned meats, salt, canned milk, baking powder, canned vegetables, and possibly a luxury item like canned peaches. In the meantime more tourists have visited Supai and in catering to their tastes, the Havasupais have learned to increase their list of necessities.
Such perishables as eggs, oranges, apples, carrots, lemons, a few fresh vegetables, and fresh meat are purchased to be available for a few days. In addition there are potatoes, barley for the horses, a number of canned meats, several varieties of processed breakfast foods, dehydrated and canned milk, a variety of canned vegetables, fruits and juices, many kinds of desserts including cake mixes and candy, and Kool Aid, and, oh yes, pop. A survey of any pile of cans in the area will convince you that canned soft drinks or pop are the most popular product brought to Supai.
There are a few aged people among the Havasupais who grew up in the time of older customs. One old man in particular has never thought much of the white man, of his ways or his works. He thinks much the same of tourists, but he has given up trying to keep them out. When he comes into the store, he shakes his head as he scans the shelves. When his turn comes at the counter, he orders some canned beef, flour, coffee, and sugar. "What's that stuff?" he asks, pointing.
"That's pop," says the storekeeper. "Try a cold can from the refrigerator. It's pretty good on a hot day." The old man buys a can and walks out the door shaking his head and mumbling. The words that can be heard are "white man" and "tourists."
Tourists are not precisely the same as visitors. Although Father Garces visited the canyon as early as 1776, white men did not start visiting with any frequency until the middle of the nineteenth century. Other Indians, particularly Walapais, Navajos, and Hopis, have been coming for a long time, particularly for the Peach Festival in the fall. They are considered guests even though some trade often takes place. Since World War II more people, men, women, and children, have been coming to see the beauty and life of this canyon. They are tourists, not guests, and are under the direction of the tourist manager.
His main function is to get you and your equipment into the canyon. He arranges for this in turn among the men who own pack and riding animals. Ninety per cent of the pack fee goes at once to the owner of the animals. Ten per cent remains with the tribe and pays for the manager. So the main cash crop of the Havasupais is tourists.
Besides arranging to pack you in, he offers other services, and an important one being the rental of quarters in the lodge. The lodge has bed, bedding, water, lights, and cooking facilities. You can buy food at the store, if you didn't have it packed in, and cook it yourself.
If you prefer to camp out between the waterfalls two miles below the village, the tourist manager will help you arrange this too. And he will get you a guide and riding animals for use in the canyon. But you may not need a guide if you have made some friends.
Unless you are visiting the canyon in winter, you will observe some activity in connection with the corn fields, for corn is the Indian's main food item. Customs relating to corn endure tenaciously. Ever since the establishment of the reservation, agricultural experts have come to the canyon. In spite of their advice, instruction, and even pressure, the Indians still plant the old Indian corn, the kind that will produce red, white, yellow, blue, and black kernels on the same ear. It makes delicious roasting ears and, when matured and cured, nourishing bread.
The experts did not change the old way of planting either. From the middle of April until the middle of June the Indians plant their corn --- about ten kernels per hill with hills a long step apart. Fresh corn is available from late May until November.
For the Havasupai the cycle of corn approximates the cycle of life. A religious feeling about the corn cycle carries through from older times. Now and again in early morning you can observe an entire family, young and old, gather in a freshly prepared field for a brief ceremony before planting. The active male head of the family will say a prayer for a bountiful harvest while facing with uplifted arms a symbolic representation of sweet corn high on the canyon wall. After this the planting begins in the old way, using the good old corn.
A piece of advice the Havasupais accepted concerned the improvement of their irrigation system which is now found on both sides of the creek. The system, dating back to the thirties, represents a great improvement, and if it were fully utilized, much more food could be raised.
Father Garces was unable to ride his mule all the way down canyon to where the Indians lived. An animal trail had not been built nor had it been necessary, for horses, mules, and cattle came later to the Havasupais. So the farmers in the canyon once did all their work by hand using digging sticks and very simple tools. In time, they had animals for the heavy work of land preparation --- plowing, harrowing, leveling, and draining. Then in the forties a friend gave the tribe a tractor with a fairly complete set of tools.
These were dismantled and packed into the canyon on the backs of animals. Another tractor was brought down the trail in 1960 on its own wheels though one or two places in the trail required a work party to get the machine beyond the difficulty. Such machinery makes short work of plowing these small fields. Harvesting alfalfa is rather more fun than drudgery when done with a tractor and mower.
An even more modern twist is given by this second tractor which is privately owned. Since ownership of a tractor carries much more prestige than owning horses, the machine status symbol has reached even remote Supai.
A combination of the old and new is found in the crafts. Although the tanning of hides is no longer common among the men, it has not died out completely. Deer are not as plentiful as they were a few years ago. But if you see a skin in the creek, don't think it an accident. It is part of the curing process.
The women make more baskets now than formerly. Aside from baskets they use themselves, they make an entirely new type to sell to tourists. These are small, tightly woven baskets and plates of willow, acacia, and cottonwood. Dried devil's claw pod is used for decoration which is becoming increasingly, more elaborate. The black decorations make a strong contrast with the light body of the baskets, and examples often win prizes at the fair.
Houses offer one of the most obvious contrasts of old and new. There are the various types of hogans, sod houses built around frames, shade pavilions with roofs of branches, and frames covered by woody rods fastened one on top of another in a meticulous way until a wall is formed. These are the structures of ancient origin.
Associated with such structures are simple two-room houses built of boards. The lumber for these was provided by the government after the flood of January 1910, which destroyed most of the homes in the can, yon. Once the Havasupais used these structures for storage, but in time they came to use them for homes.
A remarkable building trend was begun a few years ago. That is the building of house walls partly or entirely of the native red sandstone. More work, more skill, more money for cement and fixtures is involved in such plans. But the resulting houses are of great durability and comfort. Moreover, those with flowers planted along the wall are exceedingly charming. It would indeed be difficult to find a more attractive setting than that of many of these stone cottages. To plan durable cottages for this pleasing setting was a great change from the old ways, for not too long ago it was customary to destroy a hogan or house on the illness and death of the owner.
As for the clothing of the people in and around the various homes, practically nothing remains of the old customs. An exception is the ancient custom of the younger children: they wear little or nothing when the weather is hot. This is not only comfortable and sensible, it is very functional. No preparation is necessary for jumping in and out of the cool waters of Havasu Creek.
The men now wear Western style clothing almost exclusively. Big hats, jeans, and cowboy boots are the thing. For the women dresses are still the custom. An easy way to learn how modern Havasupais dress is to examine the pages of Western clothing in the mail order catalogues.
As you observe these people, you wonder whether they ever get sick in such an idyllic place. Unfortunately they do. But they are so relaxed, happy, and good natured that they are at least free from stress diseases such as ulcers.
The U. S. Public Health Service provides a clinic about every three weeks and is on call for emergencies. Serious illness is taken care of at hospitals in a number of different places, and ambulances are provided to take the sick people there.
An unusually modern touch is a service provided by Luke Air Force Base which, on call, sends in a helicopter to get the serious emergency cases to the most suitable hospital. There has developed a fondness among the women about to be confined to go out by helicopter rather than to ride out about a week before confinement. A week after the baby is born the mother comes riding proudly down the trail with the father riding an, other horse and holding the new child in his arms.
The dentist comes about twice a year to examine teeth, fill cavities, and make extractions. Anything more complicated is done outside. And the children are exhorted to eat less candy for the good of the teeth.
In spite of all this modern medical care, the medicine men of the tribe still practice and have considerable influence. Sometimes they encourage a family to wait awhile before seeking help from outside. Increasingly, though, the so-called miracle drugs have done wonders to win over the medicine men. They often recommend that a patient go and get a shot of an antibiotic. Some think that the influence of the medicine men will pass away altogether with the passing of the older generation.
When coming into Supai, you immediately notice the old school building near the Quonset but chapel. Soon you realize that it has the look of desertion. The play swings hang quiet and unused. The bell is silent too. Where are the children? Since 1955 they have been sent out to boarding school. They attend good schools in such towns as Fort Apache and Stewart, Nevada, and Sedona, Arizona. The children go at the age of seven and continue through sixteen. A few continue beyond their sixteenth year, but most quit as soon as they can and some, earlier.
Formal schooling began in Havasu Canyon soon after the reservation was established. In 1895, when the school was started, the same class included seven-year-olds and teenagers. In time there were seventy pupils and eight grades.
The flood of 1910 took with it the stone school buildings along with almost everything else, but recovery was quick and a temporary school was soon established in a tent. In a few years a frame structure was built around the tent. This now functions as the store.
The existing frame school building was completed in 1912 and was used almost continuously until the spring of 1955. Now it is practically beyond repair. A new building would be required if the decision is to reestablish schooling in the canyon.
In the old times before there was formal education among the Havasupai, boys and girls were trained enough to become effective members of their society. All learned something about farming. Although the men did the heavier work, women took care of some farming duties. Men, women, and children lived efficiently and well. In fact, they were happy and had such a reputation among their neighbors.
Some of this laughter is missing now. When you notice the silent bell and the drooping swings at the school building, you sense the reason for this. All but the smallest children have gone from the canyon, and with them went much of the good fun of life --- their shouts, their laughter, their delight at play.
In Havasu Canyon the silence is more apparent than in most places because the walls have the means of enlarging and magnifying sounds made there. When the children are home the effect is one of amplified joy.
To go beyond these few glimpses into the life of the Havasupai would indeed be rewarding, but it would take more time. And you have not forgotten your desire to press on down canyon to the river, leaving more of these quiet adventures for other days.
You now concern yourself with the practical necessities of preparing for a successful hike. You pack up a first aid kit, flashlight, and lunch, put on socks and shoes suitable for wading, find yourself a stout staff, and proceed to win your way to the place where the blue-green waters of Havasu Creek are lost in the chocolate Colorado.
Before the flood of 1954, a strong hiker, pressing all the way, required twelve hours of actual hiking time for the round trip from village to river and back. Now, however, time is reduced by about three hours, for the flood swept away a great amount of brushy undergrowth. Even so, some people still backpack the necessary food and sleeping equipment and spend two or more days for the trip.
A way to moderate a one-day trip from the village is to get an early start and ride as far as the trail goes. This arrangement cuts off three miles at the beginning and three miles at the end of the hike.
As you hike and wade and climb, you need to re, member a few "don'ts." Be sure the weather is clear because you don't want to be caught by a quick flood below Mooney Falls. Be sure too that you don't cross the stream on top of the natural dams, for they crumble and may cause serious injury if you fall off the high, downstream side. One of the better places to cross is just above the dam. And don't waste time putting shoes and socks on and off. Instead, travel onward persistently like Gideon's soldiers. Nor should you gamble that you will never fall in and get wet all over. Such gamblers are sometimes the very ones who do fall in and ruin their film and camera because they did not put them in waterproof bags. Last of all, wearers of shorts or bathing suits often wish they had protection from brush and thorny vegetation which abounds near the Colorado.
The first few miles of this downstream adventure provide you with memorable sights and experiences which will take many evenings in the telling.
You have soon learned to know several moods of the singing Havasu. Where it rose, it seeped silently from the ground, but within a few feet it had a voice of its own and left its mark as a channel bordered by flowers. Even before reaching the village, it sings with confidence and leaps gayly over the canyon floor. A continuous riffle, the creek gathers vigor, makes a course, and invites the shrubs and trees to shade its banks. Here and there are marks which show how, on occasion, in excess of flood and strength, the waters leaped their banks and made irresponsible forays from their former course. But in a short period, a few hours or days, they returned again, although at times the creek might persist for some years in holding to the new channel it found for itself.
By the time it has reached the village, Havasu has grown in flow and vigor. Indeed, it might be said to have matured and accepted its purpose. For the farther downstream it goes, the more fixed is this purpose and the less chance there is to leap the banks of a destiny which has been determined by greater powers. Even the course of the mighty Colorado was determined by the slope of the land which it drained. Then how much more predestined is the course of a tributary such as Havasu.
Havasu, as it must, accepts its destiny and does its work. It irrigates the fields of waving corn. It makes the cottonwood and willow flourish, and here the birds sing and build their nests. It builds the travertine dams, and in the quiet pools above, the children splash and play. On these dams the cress grows and blooms, and the mimulus waves its flowers. The creek waters these and hurries on. And around some bend, behind some bush, beneath some grass, near a quiet eddy, the secretive gallinule builds her nest as a fit place for her young. Still Havasu flows on.
These are but glimpses of the moods of Havasu. Actually the moods are infinite for they change by the hour, by the day, by the year, by the eon. You capture some of them for your own as you press on to this final adventure with the creek as your guide.
Near the downstream edge of the village, the creek calls attention to a new feature by making a different sound, the result of its first flowing over small travertine dams. As you travel downstream, these dams become higher and more closely spaced, and with cress-lined pools behind them, they offer some of the finest scenes in the canyon. These are places to doze and dream by.
About a mile from the village you suddenly hear a louder sound. Here the canyon begins to narrow, and the trail is only a short distance from the stream. On investigation you find a twenty-foot drop in the streambed. This suggestion of a fall is the remnant of what was formerly called Fifty-Foot Falls.
During the flood of August 1955, this fall was reduced from its former eminence to its present cascade-like status. Once it was of impressive height, spoke in strong tones, and had a fine, trout-filled pool below. The flood not only reduced the fall but swept away the trout, and efforts to reestablish them have not yet proven successful.
By now the stream is busily cutting through Redwall Limestone, having already completed its work on the Supai Sandstone. The limestone is the more resistant and results' in the canyon floor showing a different profile. This consists of a series of benches graced by magnificent waterfalls.
Just a mile and a half below the village a whoosh and a boom tells you that you have reached the first full-scale falls. These are Navajo Falls. In the past this falls was broad and lacy with a drop of about seventy-five feet. It is now divided into two distinct flows about sixty feet high. The intervening rock gives some indication of being worn down once more. Perhaps in another five or ten years, this stream will again be broad and lacy.
For Havasu Creek is an unusual stream. It builds up as well as erodes away. The rebuilding is as a consequence of a high concentration of soluble carbonates and minerals in the water which become insoluble when aerated. Once insoluble, they drop down to the bottom or settle along the sides of the stream and near the falls where the spray flies. Navajo Falls was a shelf of resistant limestone with an overlay of less resistant travertine mixed with sand and organic matter. The stream, in a temporary mood of surging flood power, could sweep away some of the softer material while leaving the basic substructure of resistant limestone but little changed. Navajo Falls in particular has been subject to such changes.
Several hundred yards below Navajo Falls is a crossing deep enough to require that riders lift their feet from the stirrups. Hikers cross the stream on a footbridge nearby.
A mile beyond Navajo Falls you hear an increasing sound of falling water until you pass the lip of the next bench and are in full view and boom of Havasu Falls. This fall, about one hundred feet high, flows through a travertine notch about twenty-five feet wide.
In 1955, before the flood, Havasu was a two-stream fall because of a stone divider in the center of the lip. This divider was torn away by the flood, and the stream now plunges from a semicircular shelf which has been built out from the face of the cliff.
For Havasu has been subject to change, although not so much as Navajo. Perhaps its travertine overlay is of a more solid kind than that of Navajo and requires more water power than the usual winter or summer freshet to make a substantial change.
Nevertheless a substantial change did occur during the early part of the century. Photographs from publications near the turn of the century show an unbroken line of travertine from wall to wall of the canyon. There was no notch at that time. And the water flowed all along the edge of the fall in patterns of such intricacy and beauty as to win superlative praise from the travelers fortunate enough to get there. Even the name was different then. It was known as Bridal Veil Falls and was considered incomparable.
Probably the mighty flood of 1910 ripped the wall, concentrating the flow into the width of the notch. In any case, this falls is of surpassing beauty still and worth a long journey to see.
Among its handsome embellishments are the aprons of travertine which hang from the walls on both sides. Those under and near the water are covered with moss
and lichens. Maiden hair fern stirs in the breeze and flowering mimulus peeps from the crannies.
Soon after Havasu Falls, you pass by the camping area. It would be difficult to find a more beautiful place to sleep under the stars. In addition to some improvements in the form of tables and hearths, there are the wide arching ash trees, the cottonwoods and willows, and the ever-present music of stream and fall.
For the most part, the canyon is now scarcely two hundred feet wide. Although the walls here are of limestone, they take their color from iron oxides which have washed over the surfaces --- hence the name of the formation, Redwall Limestone.
By now your purpose becomes more pressing. You begin to concentrate on getting down canyon to the river and back before darkness makes the going more difficult. Hiking by flashlight over the rocks and through the brush is an emergency and not a planned maneuver.
A mile below the camping area, at the top of Mooney Falls, the horse trail ends. This third fall is the highest, plunging from the lip about zoo feet into a magnificent blue-green pool. Mooney is also the noisiest fall and stirs up the most air and spray. Some of the travertine aprons beside the fall are so extensive that they fall of their own weight. Vegetation on the rock walls is pro, fuse here because of so much spray to water it. And this fall is much the most difficult to get below.
Had not the miners preceded us by fifty to seventy, five years, only skillful climbers well-equipped with essential rope and hardware could get below. Even with the tunnels, steps, and iron pegs placed by the miners, the loaded backpacker will find the descent trouble, some if not impossible.
The first hundred feet of descent offer no problem, but a good many who suffer from acrophobia have turned back before venturing down the second hundred. Here the cliff has an angle of about 80 degrees. If your load is light, the miners' steps seem relatively easy. Some, however, require encouragement and assistance. A few have been known to flunk the test after starting. They had to be pushed and hauled back to the top.
After you have reached the lush valley at the bottom of the falls and walked on about a quarter of a mile, you see to your left the reason for the miners' hard work: they needed access to a deposit of molybdenum down canyon. An even more spectacular and harder job was building an iron and wooden ladder of more than zoo feet up the cliff side to reach the ore. Clearly they had more than a streak of adventure in their make-up too.
A short distance below the miners' ladder you come to the first bridgeless stream crossing. Three hundred yards below, you come to the second. These crossings are followed by a wonderfully satisfying two miles of canyon that leads to the top of Beaver Falls. If you walk this in early spring when new vegetation has al, most obliterated the path, you will have a fine sense of the fresh, the new, the pristine, the unspoiled. Further on there is a wide and open place in the canyon bordered by walls which reach up and up and give a
soaring quality to your spirit. Continuing along the creek, you pass pool after pool of exquisite beauty until you wonder if these can be excelled.
They can be, because soon you come to several which are not only very fine in themselves but are situated in the center of the canyon with surrounding views of the pools to photograph and to admire. Certainly this is one of the climax areas of the canyon.
By this time you have noticed signs of beaver work, the reason for the naming of the geographical features in this vicinity. Mostly the signs are gnawed stumps, felled trees, and stripped limbs. Oddly enough, though, dams have not been reported and the animals are rarely seen.
Soon you have reached Beaver Falls itself, actually a series of natural travertine dams, pools, and cascades. To get below this fourth and last fall you must put forth your best effort since following the stream is too steep for safety. Some turn back here, desiring a more leisurely pace which leaves more time to enjoy the views and photograph the scenes. But you continue, led on by curiosity about the end reward.
You cross the stream and work down its edge for a quarter of a mile, now in the water, now out on the bank. If you are an experienced rock climber, you can go up from the crossing to an inner rim which leads you around the cascades and beyond Beaver Canyon. But if you prefer an easier route, you will follow the stream to a reddish-brown travertine finger in the center of the canyon. This pinnacle marks the location of a major cascades as well as a diagonal ledge. The ledge is a good way to climb to an inner rim which will take you around the falls to a point below Beaver Canyon.
This rim offers a fine place for view and assessment. You see that this cascade-fall complex has an extent of about a quarter of a mile. Two of the stream drops have a height of about thirty feet. A number are in the flue to fifteen foot category. The latter with connecting water are the cascade element, while the thirty-footers are thought of as falls. (A drop of twenty to thirty feet seems to be local usage for determining the definition of a fall.) Between these drops or falls are a number of fine pools which entice the viewer to make closer stream-side inspection from approaches above or below, whichever seems more feasible. Everyone hopes and plans to do this on a later visit when there is time to enjoy the area.
Looking downstream, you notice that the canyon be, comes narrower and the walls higher than before, that the stream for the more than quarter of a mile to the next bend is an unbroken riffle, that it is bordered by shrubby and brushy growth with occasional grassy banks. Falls, cascades, pools, willow and ash trees, and the song of the canyon wren have all been left behind.
As you descend to the canyon floor, it is wise to remember to mark the place where the trail is by putting up a pile of stones, a "duck." You then continue the down-canyon jaunt, now wading the stream, next on the bank, then through the prickly brush and back in the stream again around one bend after another. The shrubs become less numerous. Mostly there is brush, some grassy banks, and woody vegetation. The water seems to have less color than above Beaver Falls. And these phenomena prove continuous as you push on downstream.
Imperceptibly now the floor of the canyon narrows. Imperceptibly the walls loom higher. At a number of places the openness of vista and the sweep of the walls are impressive, but the total effect of less variety of scene plus the first evidence of fatigue begin to produce a compulsion to get the job done. And so you slog around the next bend and the next and find much the same conditions: impressive canyon walls, little variety in scenery.
The explanations for such a change in scenery are complex. One is that the canyon gets narrow enough so that the entire floor feels the impact of any floodwaters which flow, a situation which makes it difficult for the travertine dams to get started. A second reason for the difficulty is that the carbonates and minerals in the water were precipitated out along the stream above. Without dams there is little chance for soil to collect, and more soil is necessary for trees to flourish.
You continue through this rather barren country feeling in your muscles and bones that the objective is near. And after about three miles of such canyon floor, your feelings are reinforced by signs.
Even before you reach the gorge you can hear the roar of the mighty Colorado. Several hundred yards from the junction of creek and river you see a well-marked trail towards the river on the north bank of the Havasu.
This is merely a remnant of early mining activity. Instead of taking this trail, you cross the creek and work your way along a ledge that climbs above the south side of the stream. Below you on the right are the last beautiful blue-green pools of Havasu Creek. Then, as you top the last rise, the Colorado is before you, and you see the fresh water of the creek quickly and submissively caught up and swirled away by the muddy flood.
Here is power --- naked, mighty, awesome. To know it you do not have to be told how many thousands of tons of soil it sweeps along with it each day, for you hear the roar and bumping and crunching of boulders as they grind along the river bed. You feel spray from the rapids. It leaps into the shimmering air. And the rocky banks of the gorge tremble, faintly but incessantly. The whole scene is vibrant with power.
For some this is the supreme experience of the trip, the reason for visiting Havasu. Here is a dramatic climax which justifies all the effort, the cold, and the wet. And the higher the flood of the Colorado, the more memorable the experience.
But it matters little whether you remember Havasu primarily for the wonder of its scenery, the hospitality of its Indians, the music of its waters, or its adventurous challenge. Because, however far you may roam, you will find, like the wandering Indian, that the compulsion rests deep within you to come back to Havasu some day.